Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Did the World Love Jesus? Responding to Andy Stanley’s Compromise on Homosexuality
By now, you have probably read about the controversy at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga. According to the Christian Post, a man left his wife and began a same sex relationship with someone else in the church. These men wanted to serve as volunteers in the church while engaging in a homosexual relationship even though the one man was still married to his wife. The Post reports, “The "messy" story, as Stanley described it, ended with the gay couple, the first man's ex-wife and their child, as well as her new boyfriend and his child from another relationship, all coming to worship together at a service in the church. Christians, he said, are called not only to hold on to the truth, but also to grace, which includes forgiveness and love.”
In short, a man who abandons his wife and child for another man, the wife grabs a boyfriend who has a child from a previous relationship and all these professing Christians end up worshipping in church together as one big happy family in the name of Christ. Andy Stanley, rather than address the sins of illicit divorce, homosexuality, and fornication, took the opportunity to refer to traditional Christian beliefs on this issues and those who hold them as follows: “Christians, he said, are viewed as being "judgmental, homophobic, moralists" who think they are the only ones going to heaven and who "secretly relish the fact that everyone else is going to hell." I have never met anyone that even approaches the description of “secretly relishing the fact that everyone else is going to hell.” This kind of polarizing rhetoric is not only helpful, it represents judging of the worse kind. Stanley is clearly showing his hand on how he views homosexual behavior. In fact, he is clearly showing his view on biblical sanctification.
Stanley argues that every other command must be filtered through the two greatest commands of loving the Lord our God with our whole heart and loving your neighbor as yourself. However, the problem with Stanley’s assertion is that he assumes a very particular view of what it looks like to obey the two greatest commandments. In other words, without showing us what these commandments look like when done biblically, he assumes a view that he fails to prove. In fact, he doesn’t even attempt to make the effort. If one reads Stanley correctly, the implication is that we must accept this homosexual relationship “if” we are loving our neighbor as ourselves. Otherwise, we are homophobic moralists who are secretly happy that they are going to hell. Why he makes this assumption remains a mystery. Perhaps we could ask Stanley why accepting the homosexual relationship but not the adulterous one is the loving thing to do. After all, if the prohibition against homosexual sex should be run through the “love” filter, why not the prohibition against adultery? Why is sex between two men acceptable and adultery unacceptable? Why is one love and the other not? It seems painfully obvious that such reasoning is schizophrenic.
The Post continues: God, Stanley added, does not want us to use His law "to unnecessarily hurt and disenfranchise people." Why is it acceptable to remove the men from service over the issue of adultery and unnecessarily hurtful to do so over the issue of homosexual sex?
Stanley went on to say, “Jesus' movement was all about "how you love," but over time it became "what you believe," he said. "If we would simply do what Jesus did … instead of arguing about what he said, the world would change, the reputation of Christ's followers would change, the influence of the church would change. This is easy. This requires nothing … just a brand new worldview."
So, according to Stanley, the content of Christian belief was not important from the beginning. Rather, it was all about loving one another. Being in the Christian community was about “love” and not about beliefs and certainly not about prohibitions or law. How does Stanley’s view compare to the NT writings? In fact, how do they compare with history? It is fascinating to me that Stanley offers no exegetical evidence to prove his claim. In addition, he provides not a shred of historical support tracing how and where this emphasis changed over time.
Stanley makes three important moves in how he handles this new controversy. First, he paints a picture of harmony, peace, and happiness with all the parties involved attending worship together like one big happy extended family. This strategy works in a culture where critical thinking and beliefs have been abandoned and replaced with pure emotion, not to mention experientialism. The scene is so surreal. Second, Stanley polarizes traditional Christianity by engaging in ad hominem arguments. He categorizes opponents of gay sex as homophobic moralists. This is not an argument. It is a tactic, and not a very good one at that. Finally, Stanley contends that we must filter every other commandment through the grid of the two greatest commandments. These three tactics represent the strength of Stanley’s position. Where is he going with this response? He has promised the Christian Post the possibility of a response (whatever that means). If a response is coming, it seems Stanley is preparing the Christian community for what that response might be.
In response to Stanley’s three tactics, it is important that we turn to Scripture. The idea among so many younger, popular evangelical pastors is that Jesus was revered by the world, that the world loved Him and followed Him and that He was their buddy, their pal, the one with whom they could really connect and feel accepted. This is the sense we get when we hear these men preach or when we interact with the typical modern American Christian. Is there any validity to this claim? Does this modern picture accurately reflect the reality of Christ in ancient Palestine?
In John 6:26 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” In other words, you seek Me because your bellies were full. You were satisfied. Jesus was making the point that the catalyst for these seekers was their own lustful appetite. In this case, it was their appetite for food. Jesus was perceived to meet a need and they reasoned that following Him meant that their needs, at least this one, would continue to be met. Hence, they followed Jesus for their own selfish reasons. Is it any wonder that we see the very same pattern in contemporary times? When Jesus gave these people the truth about following Him and what would be required, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” (v. 66)
Does the world love Jesus? Jesus Himself said the world hates Him because He testifies of it, that its deeds are evil. Jesus Himself confessed that the world hated Him because He confronted it with its sin. The world does not love Jesus. Again Jesus said you cannot have two masters because you will love the one and hate the other. The world’s master is not God. The world is hostile to God. The world hates God. (Rom. 8:6-8) Jesus said we are blessed when people insult us and persecute us, and falsely say all kinds of evil against us because of Him. We should rejoice and be exceeding glad for our reward in heaven is great. In John 15:18 Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” The antithesis could not be clearer. Not only does the world hate Jesus Christ, it hates His disciples. Jesus speaks about this in language that clearly indicates such hatred is unavoidable for those who are His true followers. If you truly love Jesus, get ready, you can expect insults, persecution, and a lot of hatred from the unbelieving world. They hated Jesus and they will hate us. Stanley and others who imply or outright assert that the world should love and respect us seem oblivious to Jesus’ own words on the subject.
How is it that so many of these pastors, so-called, imply that the church should be pals with the god-hating culture? Why do they lead so many Christians astray with their uncritical, experiential, emotional rhetoric and empty talk? They convince us that the world should receive us and be glad to hear us when Jesus said just the opposite. Paul said that everyone who desires to live godly in Christ will suffer persecution. The message of Christ is offensive and foolish to the world. America says it loves Jesus, but by all accounts, it sure hates His morals. I could say the same thing for much of the evangelicalism today. People sure do love God, and they love Jesus, but they have no use for this ethics. How does this work?
Stanley fails to address serious problems in his sermon. He neglects the glaring problem of illicit divorce, not to mention the sin of homosexuality. In so doing, he abandons one of his primary duties as a minister of the gospel: the promulgation and publication of biblical truth. The blood of Stanley’s entire congregation will be required at judgment. When men engage in this kind of ungodly nonsense, they place themselves in grave danger of perilous eternal judgment.
From this, we can see that Stanley’s first two tactics fail. In fact, Stanley ends up joining the world in their insults of true Christian dogma. By accusing those who hold the biblical position on homosexuality of being moralist homophobes, Stanley persecutes people squarely within the body of Christ. Such persecution should disqualify Him from ministry straight away. Rather than stand up for the truth, Stanley joins the unbelieving crowds by attacking and demeaning it.
Stanley’s argument that all commands should be filtered through the two greatest commands is a gross exaggeration. Nowhere does Scripture view other commands as filters. Stanley’s analogy here is the product of his own warped view of how he looks at Scripture. From those two commands flow all the other commands. What does this actually mean? It means that the way one obeys the first command is by obeying all the others. The way we love the Lord is by keeping His commandments. Stanley wrongly separates loving God and obeying God. Scripture is oblivious to such a perspective. Jesus said to love the Lord our God with all our being! Then He said, if you love me, you will obey my commands. Loving God IS obeying God. Not obeying God IS hating God. Disobedience is an act of despising God! Stanley does not seem to recognize this truth.
Finally, Stanley is wrong when he contends the ancient church did not focus as much on belief as it did on love. The truth is that belief informs love and love fuels belief. It is a false dichotomy to set love up over against belief. You cannot dismiss one without dismissing the other. I had a college professor who said, “Christian love never diminishes Christian truth.” We are to speak the truth in love! One has to ask if it is loving to allow a person who has made the homosexual choice to think God receives them just as they are when we know better. How is it right to leave a man in a burning building when we could help him escape?
The contemporary Church is on the verge of being capsized by the homosexual issue. She has lost her convictions regarding the clarity and authority of Scripture on the issue. The truth is that she has bought into the culture. She does not want to be persecuted for her beliefs on the issue and as a result, she compromises with a god-hating world. She wishes to insulate herself against insult and criticism. She is more concerned with what the world thinks of her than she is with God’s eternal and unchanging truth. Andy Stanley’s position is just one more attempt to be a man pleaser. It has little to do with the actual truth of Scripture and more to do with pop-culture and public image. It is very unpopular to be on the wrong side of the homosexual issue. However, if the church is going to continue to be the church, she must always be on the opposite side of the world. The world and the church simply do not mix.
The homosexual behavior between these two men should have been cause for immediate discipline. The man who left his wife should have been informed that he had no such right, outside of adultery. Counseling should have ensued along with discipleship training for the couple. The homosexual man should have received the same kind of attention. Repentance from the entire group is the order of the day if they wish to be identified with the Society of Christ, the Church. Jesus said it is not those who hear my words that will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who hear and do His words, they will enter. Pastors who fail to point this out do so to their own peril. God makes no exceptions and teachers will certainly be subjected to the greater judgment.
at May 08, 2012
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